Headaches are often caused by disorders of the neck or physical and emotional tension. Physiotherapists can successfully treat most headaches and show you how to prevent the pain recurring.
Is Your Headache Really a Neck Ache?

For many people, feelings of pain and tension start at the top of the neck. As the pain worsens, it may spread to the back of the head, the temples, forehead or behind the eyes. Moving the neck or bending forward for a long time tends to make it worse.

This happens because the nerves in the upper part of your neck are connected to the nerves in your head and face. A disorder of the upper neck joints or muscles can cause referred pain to your head.

Any of the following points suggest that your neck may be causing the headache:
bullet Headache associated with neck pain. Does the pain radiate from the back to the front of your head?
bullet Headache with dizziness or light-headedness.
bullet Headache brought on or worsened by neck movement or staying in the same position for a long time.
bullet Headache which always feels worse on the same side of your head.
bullet Headache eased by pressure to the base of the skull.
bullet Headache which persists after your doctor has checked for other causes.
Headache can be caused by a tense posture
Headache can be caused by a tense posture. You may be hunching your shoulders without realising it.
A disorder of the upper neck joints or muscles can cause referred pain to your head.
Headaches from Other Causes

Emotional tension and anxiety can cause the muscles at the base of the head and jaw to become very tight, irritating the nerves and restricting blood flow. This produces a headache.

If migraine, allergic reactions or other causes are suspected, your physiotherapist will recommend that you see a medical practitioner.

Here is some useful advice to help you prevent headaches:

Think tall: chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in and head level. Your neck should feel strong, straight and relaxed.

Avoid working with your head down for long periods. Stretch and change position frequently.

A down pillow or urethane moulded pillow is best for most people. Talk to your physiotherapist.

Keep your neck joints and muscles flexible and strong with correct neck exercises. Your physiotherapist can show you how.

Recognise when you are tense. You may be hunching your shoulders or clenching your teeth without realising it.
How Physiotherapists Can Help

Physiotherapists are experts in posture and human movement. They will be able to determine if your neck is causing the headaches. Physiotherapists may use:
bullet Mobilisation
bullet Manipulation
bullet Massage
bullet Remedial exercise
bullet Postural assessment, correction and advice
bullet Relaxation therapy
bullet Laser, ultrasound, electrotherapy and heat treatment
Your physiotherapist can also offer you self-help advice on ways to correct the cause of headaches, such as practical tips for work and in the home, adjusting furniture, relaxation and exercise.

Physiotherapist Physiotherapists use a range of techniques to treat neck headaches.
Manipulation can be an effective treatment for headache caused by neck problems. In some situations, it may do more harm than good. Your physiotherapist will carefully check your neck before manipulating it to see if other methods, such as mobilisation would be preferable.
Finding a Physiotherapist

A doctor's referral is not required to see a physiotherapist in private practice. Physiotherapists in private practice are listed in the Yellow Pages under 'Physiotherapists'. Physiotherapists also work in public hospitals and community health centres.

A proportion of treatment costs is rebatable under all higher table health insurance schemes.
APA Top of page

Move well. Stay well.
By courtesy of the Australian Physiotherapy Association